How The Free Market Made US Government Regulations On CO2 Emissions Unnecessary

  • Date: 22/05/18
  • Hank Campbell, American Council on Science and Health

In 2009 the U.S. government attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and pledged to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020.

To make it happen, the Obama administration directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lead the way starting with carbon dioxide (CO2) and that resulted in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in 2015. While the goal was laudable, no one is in favor of more pollution, it was a blunt instrument because it unfairly penalized fossil fuel power plants in order to provide nearly half the overall reductions the Obama administration sought under the Paris Agreement commitment. Energy is a basic need so it didn’t make much sense to unfairly penalize the poor with increased costs for unknown benefit.

The Paris Agreement is now gone in America, what federal politicization of science giveth politicization of science can taketh away, but the emissions reductions the government sought still happened despite a lack of regulations and for that we can thank American science and technology.

Though the added regulations have not come to pass, that’s been a good thing. Without onerous cost increases on the poor, built-in higher rates due to solar and wind programs aside, the free market has continued to cause CO2 emissions to plummet, so much so that in 2017 America reached the CPP’s desired 2025 target. That’s not due to solar or wind, finds the study in Environmental Science & Technology, it is overwhelmingly due to natural gas. Thanks to modern natural gas extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, power plant emissions have declined from 2.7 billion tons in 2005 to 1.9 billion tons in 2017, a reduction of almost 30 percent.

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